On May 25th, 1961

President John F. Kennedy delivered his historic moonshot speech to Congress.

"Now it is time to take longer strides," Kennedy told Congress that day, "time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth." He challenged the nation to a seemingly unimaginable task: putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Three factors made this landmark achievement possible:

  1. Concerted leadership to drive unprecedented innovation.
  2. A specific call to action to ignite unparalleled collaboration across the public and private sectors.
  3. A sustained investment ensuring continued success.

Nearly fifty years later, the digital revolution is fundamentally changing the ways we interact with each other and experience our lives. As our lives move online, so have a broad range of threats. Today’s cybersecurity measures have been far outpaced by hackers, criminals, and nation states. This needs to change.

The time has come for a Cyber Moonshot.

A new call to action for federal leadership

To launch a moonshot for the Digital Era, federal cyber leadership at the highest levels must chart a clear path to securing the digital landscape over the next five years by taking a number of critical steps.

A key part of this journey is addressing the most pressing cyber risk on the horizon: using the Internet of Things against us. We must develop a way to secure the IoT by leveraging the latest technology: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

In five years, we can shift the balance and land another moonshot—but we must start today. Here are six things federal agencies can do now:

  1. Improve basic cyber hygiene to ensure systems are patched and up to date.
  2. Accelerate cloud migration work. Look beyond "lift and shift" for opportunities to refractor systems to be cloud-native.
  3. Identify your "crown jewels" and focus on securing those systems by adopting a data-centric security approach.
  4. Move to DevSecOps processes and methodologies, bringing IT Modernization and Cybersecurity investment streams together in an agile process to ensure needs are coherently addressed.
  5. Adopt effective and proven proactive defense measures to root out APTs, close the holes, and build a more capable and hardened defense.
  6. Promote a security first mindset where cybersecurity is viewed as everyone’s responsibility.

What does "resilience" mean in federal cybersecurity?

"Safe" takes on a different meaning for each agency’s unique mission. At its core, safe means establishing a baseline level of confidence that does not waver when an unexpected event hits. It is about getting into a position where you have a systematic plan and cyber defenses in place when an attack occurs.

Safe is…
The ability for government, business and citizens to conduct business and engage without fear of loss, compromise or damage.

Rapid innovation to deliver enhanced citizen services built on a secure, resilient foundation.

Confidence that critical intelligence, plans, intellectual property and sensitive data are protected from those who would do harm while available with ease and trust to those who need it.

By 2020, over 34 billon devices will be connected to a platform or another device1. Some estimates predict more than 700 billion by 2025. With more than 90 percent of Americans currently using three or more devices2, the accompanying flow of data-often highly sensitive-will only continue to grow.

To secure the latest technology, leverage the latest technology

Human control and oversight at this scale will be impossible. To proactively pursue security solutions that detect and respond to threats at machine speed, AI and Machine Learning will play a significant role.

Traditional tools have focused on detection and remediation, which are too slow to combat the relentlessness of today’s threats. AI and Machine Learning advancements offer new possibilities to keep pace with adversaries.

Moving IoT data endpoints to the cloud. AI leverages analytics to “learn” about normal activity and identify unusual, malicious behavior early.

Spotting vulnerable gaps. With the help of human checks and verifications, Machine Learning identifies vulnerabilities where devices and systems connect to one another.

Learning and Innovating continuously. Additional benefits of using Machine Learning to secure the IoT include:

  • Drawing insightful patterns and trends from vast amounts of data
  • Developing more predictive security models
  • Learning from data without re-programming machines
"At the end of the day, a safe system provides the right data access to the right users at the right time from the right devices—only."

— Tom Greiner, Technology Business Lead

In a world where the weakest player is the source of a cyber attack, the number of potential threat vectors will also grow to the square of the number of connected devices. Simply put to harness the full economic value of the ever-expanding digital network, it must be secure.

1 Gartner, 2017

2 Business Insider, 2015

Tom Greiner

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services


IDC Technology Spotlight on XDR for government

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